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Risks Lead to Lessons | Adventure with Yoni Gill


Risks Lead to Lessons | Adventure with Yoni Gill

Ben Ashby






Paige first introduced me to Yoni a couple of years ago as we were driving across the US. Yoni, a recent college graduate was still in school in Nebraska. He met up with out group and took us to what I think was a bison range. I'm not super sure, nor am I sure we even saw any wildlife. It was cold, dark, and we were less than halfway across the US. For years I had assumed, like most Americas that Nebraska was simply a fly-over state. In that short chilly afternoon Yoni introduced us to the wide open beauty of the plaines. As a photographer Yoni travels the globe shooting portraits and weddings, for me, I was eager to learn more about how Yoni made it from Israel to Nebraska and how that altered his world view.....



Why do you adventure? It's in my blood, my father is a man of great adventure, I grew up listening to his stories of places he's been. When he met my mom (She met my dad while traveling the Sinai desert, while backpacking through Europe.), those adventures just doubled. They have boxes and boxes of photos they took from all of their travels, beautiful old school film. They can tell me the story of each photograph. That's probably the single most intense drive I have for adventuring and traveling.


Why do you explore? It’s the only time I ever truly feel like myself. I get restless easily, if I don't go on a trip often I start to lose my mind.


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Why take risks in life? In the words of Ash Ketchum, “nothing in life is a waste of time.” Plus risks lead to lessons.


Where are you from? I was born in Israel, I moved to Papillion, Nebraska when I was 10. My mom's side of the family is from western Nebraska, so they all lived there. That's why I went from the desert to the icy winters of the Midwest.


What is your 9-5? Is that slang for job? I photograph humans, my dog, and landscapes on occasion. I just finished my degree in advertising at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

When on a trip it's more like a 5-midnight, because you almost always want that sunrise shot?




When you were growing up what or who did you want to be? I actually really wanted to be a mechanical engineer. I wanted to design car engines. My Dad is a private car dealer (that's a title hard to explain) I grew up around cars my whole life. Then I realized in college how terrible I was at Chemistry, that's how I ended up picking up photography.


Favorite place you've visited? There was this lake, outside Mammoth, California. Convict Lake, it's kinda famous. I went there with my friends Greg Balkin, and Taylor Burk. We stayed with another friend Josh Wray, who runs some advertising for mammoth. Anyway we woke up super early one morning and went out to this lake, in November of 2015. It was cold, like 6o, and Greg & Taylor needed to shoot for Oru Kayak. Being the only one not working for them, it was my job to be the guy in the kayak. I got in and almost fell in the lake, but I caught myself by plunging my right arm into the lake. Then I had to kayak for 25ish minutes with a freezing arm. I almost passed out getting back to the car. Not sure why but it's one of my most fond memories, maybe it's because I felt really courageous after that, or maybe it's because we went to a diner and I got chocolate chip pancakes.




Place you most desperately want to visit? I NEED TO GO AFRICA. I went as a kid but I don't remember any of it. I have a huge passion for animals. The bigger the better, and my heart aches daily for the ivory poaching that happens on that continent. I want to photograph some rhinos and elephants before I can't.


What is the single greatest moment of human humanity you've experienced while traveling? In high school I was on a trip to Poland with 150 other Jewish teens from around the country, we had a holocaust survivor with us. Just the cutest tiniest lady named Trudy, we were walking through Majdanek (the most "put together" death camp still in existence). Anyway I hadn't gotten more than a hundred yards through this place, with Trudy by side when she grabs my hand. At first I thought she might need my support, then I realized I was the one crying my eyes out. The human heart is an exceptional piece of understanding.




What has changed about you because of your travels? I feel that I grow a bit each time I get on a plane, I've learned most from meeting other people, and the farther away they are the more I seem to learn.


Who is the most dynamic and thought provoking person you've ever met? Dallas Clayton, he writes children's books.


If you could travel with one person in history or in present who would it be and why? This question really stumped me until I saw "or in present" I would love to go on a trip with Obama, which I know sounds like a super lame cop-out answer, but it's not for political reasons, I just think he would love to hangout with some elephants as much as I do.




Must haves for travel? Stuff you should always pack?
Underwear. Everything else you can just buy, unless you don't have any money, then you should make sure you packed it. I always make a packing list, even if it's common sense stuff, you don't want to be at the airport and realize you forgot all of your t-shirts on the bed.



Give us some travel tips: You will learn to hate sitting in the back of the plane, not because of the comfort, but because of how long it takes to get off when you get somewhere you really want to go. Buy a car you can set up to sleep in comfortably. I suggest a Subaru Forester, mine's named Humphrey, he's really rad.

Buy a camera, even if you're not a photographer, you don't need to be, just take photos of everything you see, the market, the hotel, the car you're in, the views you see, the people you meet. We don't have perfect memories, we do forget, and those things you don't want to forget, me. Print the photos, keep them in a shoe box.

One day you might show these pictures to your kids.


Also be stupidly kind to the people who work in travel, you never know when you'll get an upgrade or a perk for being nice even when everything has gone wrong.




Give us a story any kind of story from one of your trips that was impactful: It's okay to travel alone, even for a day, the world is not out to get you. Sometimes I get the most out of a trip when I take a day to explore alone. Recently I walked 13 miles through Seattle in one day and when I got to the space needle, I just sat there and soaked it all in. Then I got some tacos. - always get tacos. It doesn’t always have to be a whole day alone, if you're not like that. I got to Granby Colorado for a wedding weekend in August, I got there an hour before the sunset, and I knew I had to get some photos before I met up with everyone. I went on a trail run and ran out of light before I got to the meadow I was trying to get to, I thought it was going to be a total flop. On the drive back, I found a group of elk that just came off the mountain, they were so graceful, I stood out of the sunroof of my car and observed. I remembered to snag a picture before I left, it’s kinda blurry but I love it.


Based on your travels what is the single most needed improvement for humanity to be stronger Make flights cheaper, make borders more transparent. We need to meet each other. More accessible tacos.


What would you say to someone who has never travelled before? Adventure isn't on top of a mountain, it's not the beautiful waterfalls or cliffs. It's everywhere, you've travelled before, I can almost guarantee it. You just didn't know you were.




What is the single greatest lesson you've learned from someone that is different than you? How different they're not.


When did you feel you were most out of your comfort zone? What did you learn from that lesson? I can't sleep in tents, I was backpacking with my brother once in the mountains of Colorado, and we had a little incident with a moose, it's a fairly long story but it got me good, and now I can't sleep in tents. Put me in a tent and you'll have a very uncomfortable Yoni.

This might lead you to the question:
"How do you sleep when you camp then?" I don't, or I just sleep in my car.

The greatest lesson I've learned from this: you CAN overcome challenges, no matter how impossible they might seem, you just have to think out of the box, and accept some situations but you have to try first.


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What would you say to your former self? "Hey thanks for everything you tried to do, don't worry we figured it out, also one day you'll become lactose intolerant so please binge on ice cream, you can lose weight later"


What gives you hope? I'm a lame hopeless romantic, I've yet to meet a person that has made me completely lose hope in humanity. Then again, I haven’t met Trump in person yet.


Where to next? California to Yeah Field Trip! After that some more domestic trips, then hopefully somewhere new.


Is flannel always in season? If it's not, you can always get flannel boxers and just not tell anyone you're wearing them.

@YoniLiveOnce ||